arrogance is a virtue (in some situations [maybe])

I’ve mentioned it on here before, but ever since I was in the third grade or so, I’ve wanted to write a book. Not a self-help book, or an inspirational book, or a biography, or anything like that. I just want to write a completely made-up story so people can enjoy it (and give me money for it). Unfortunately, I’ve found that it’s far easier to start writing a book than it is to finish one. And that’s one of my problems.  I get so bogged down with trying to make sure the plot is interesting and logical, the characters are dynamic and realistic, the concept is original and relevant, etc., that I’m continually editing, re-editing, rewriting, and completely scrapping projects rather than completing them.

But the greatest hindrance to writing a book has nothing to do with my ability. Most days when I sit down to write, I can’t help thinking how arrogant I must be to think I can write a book worth reading. Who do I think I am? I’m just a dude from Kansas, one of three hundred million people in the United States and seven billion people in the world. Why would a publisher read the first page of anything I’ve written, much less take the time to copyedit, print, design, advertise, distribute, and pay me for my book? It’s a completely ridiculous idea, and it—more than anything—keeps me from finishing anything. Because, after all, what’s the point?

My intention with this post is not to curry sympathy with you, or to coax you into filling my inbox with verbal salve for my wounded pride, so please abstain from that. In fact, I am actually arrogant enough to think I could write a book worth reading. The issue comes from having to persuade other people—particularly agents and publishers, you know, the people with the power—that this is the case. All I have to do, though, is walk into a bookstore and see just how many people have gotten their books published. Many of them—if not most of them—probably faced the same concerns that impede my progress. The primary difference between them and me is that those authors—however talented they may or may not actually be—dealt with those apprehensions and pressed on anyway. And they were rewarded with publishing contracts.

Recently I’ve been trying to change my attitude when it comes to writing from “why me?” to “why not me?” I know I’m at least a fair writer, so who’s really to say that I can’t get a book (or two) published? Granted, I may write a book, send it to a bunch of publishing companies, and receive only rejection letters in response. If that happens, it’s okay. At least then I’ll have a clear answer to the question “why not me?”

But there’s still a chance—however infinitesimally small (or otherwise) it may be—that I could write something that ends up on a bookstore shelf somehwere. The only problem is I’ll never know if I don’t actually finish something. So, if writing a book is something I really want to do, I know I need to just bite the bullet and give it the old college try (to borrow two separate colloquialisms). Failure is most certainly a possibility, but, then again, so is success.

I guess that’s the way it is with everything, and I’m really not breaking any new philosophical ground. “You won’t know until you try,” your mom always said, usually when she wanted you to eat a dish with a suspicious amount of vegetables in it. And dadgummit if she wasn’t right! So why are you still reading blog posts? Go do your thing, whatever it is, and I’ll keep trying to write a book. You may just succeed with it. But if you fail, you can always come back and read my blog posts.

you might as well read this announcement, you have nothing better to do

You may have been previously unaware of this, but since I began this blog I have attempted to publish a new post every Monday. I’m not sure if you’ve noticed or not, but I have really failed reached that benchmark recently. The reason for this is threefold. First, my days tend to be busy, and by the time I am able to sit down and write, all I want to do is watch TV and vegetate. Second, I’ve spent some time traveling recently, which sounds rather sophisticated until you learn I’ve only been to Texas and Missouri. The third reason for my intermittent blogging is the reason for this particular post.

I have been working on a project that is far broader in scope than those to which you have been privy here. See, writing about things such as politics, social justice, theology, and ministry have been delightful paramours of mine, but my first love is writing fiction. Ever since my world-renowned first novel, The Mystery of the Bike, was published in 1999, I have been creating stories nonstop. Most of them rarely get to be longer than a page, and hardly any of them have ever made it to the eyes of another reader. I’ve always been hesitant to let others read my stories, partly because I never seem to be able to finish them, and partly because I don’t want to find out that I’m actually the worst writer the world has ever known.

But this past month (which happens to have been National Novel Writing Month), I wrote (and completed!) a full story that will be published on this blog. It’s not a novel by any means, but rather a short story of about 15,000 words (which I’m sure some of you wouldn’t consider to be all that short). The other short stories I have published on this blog are in the 1000-2000 word range and are, for the most part, biographical. This one, however, is completely fictional and significantly longer. You have no idea how excited I am to share this with you (if you choose to read it, I suppose, which you certainly don’t have to do).

The story, which is entitled The Perfect Place to Stash a Corpse, will be published like the serial novels of old, meaning I will be posting the story in four parts. Each part will be posted on a Thursday, with the first to be published this week (December 3rd) and the conclusion to be published on Christmas Eve. Hopefully breaking the story up into four pieces will make it more palatable for those of you who wouldn’t consider yourselves to be avid readers.

I don’t want to tell you too much about what the plot of the story is, because—as the title suggests—there is to be an element of suspense to it. For those of you wondering given the timing of its publication, I suppose you could call it a Christmas story if that’s the kind of thing you’re into, but if it’s not then you can just call it a regular old non-festive story.

I’ll leave the suspense to King, the satire to Dickens, the allegory to Lewis, and the loquacity to Dostoevsky, only hoping that you’ll read what I have to offer and maybe enjoy it along the way. And if you hate it, that’s okay too. Just know I will never forgive you.

See you Thursday.